Lightweight material set to improve protection for armoured vehicles

Lockheed Martin has teamed up with University of Surrey researchers to develop a new lightweight material that could improve the protection and survivability of armoured vehicles, including those used by the British Army and Special Forces.

While ceramic materials are extremely resistant to penetration by hostile weaponry while being less heavy than traditional armour plating, challenges with a weakness in the adhesive bonding connecting ceramic plates to their backing has made them less robust than traditional metallic armour.

Now, scientists at the University of Surrey have developed a method for treating the ceramic materials to improve the bond strength of both aluminia and silicon carbide ceramics to the composite backing. This, they claim, greatly enhances the robustness of the protective armour to better meet operational needs in hostile environments.

"Although ceramic armour has a great number of advantages over other protection methods, there are still some challenges" noted Andrew Harris, an Engineering Doctorate research engineer at the University of Surrey. "Our relationship with Lockheed Martin has enabled us to develop a method of treating the ceramic to considerably improve the effectiveness of ceramic armour plating. Key to achieving a step change in performance, proven in tests, has been the pre-conditioning of the ceramic surfaces, prior to bonding onto the support structure."

Results have shown that using the technique on alumina and silicon carbide surfaces leads to increased bond strength. The tests revealed that when a 14.5mm armour piercing incendiary was fired at the panel it remained intact under a multi-hit environment.

In addition to military vehicles, Harris says the technology has potential in areas such as space systems where ceramic tiles are used to protect vehicles against the effects of atmospheric re-entry.

Author
Laura HOPPERTON

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